Inside: Browse this list of over 40 IEP goals for behavior, including adaptive behavior IEP goals.

I can’t believe I haven’t tackled this topic before. Well, ok, I can. It’s an IEP subject area that is incredibly complex. It also is one that affects our kids day-to-day the most, and in my opinion, is usually handled the worst.

Helping child improve their behavior, through an IEP or another mechanism, has really changed a lot over the past decade. Now we know that behavior IEP goals are not enough. The team must take a whole 360-degree view of the child, their disability and their environment.

A young boy is sitting at a desk with a woman, exhibiting behavior that aligns with his IEP goals.

I see horrible FBAs completed by well-intended staff who have no business doing one, and the results show it.

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Behavior goals may be needed due to autism–but autism doesn’t cause bad behavior, if that makes sense. It’s usually unsupported sensory needs, slow processing issues or other things causing the behavior, which is secondary to the autism if that makes sense.

Behaviors can also present like an emotionally disturbed child. But again, the behavior is usually secondary to another issue.

I also have an IEP goal bank with thousands of IEP goals and IEP goal ideas: Free IEP Goal Bank with 1000+ Measurable IEP Goals and Objectives separated by Domain

Behavior IEP Goals

But, behavior IEP goals can be a starting point. If you’re having trouble defining what it is that your child is struggling with, sometimes reading over goals describing desirable behavior can help get you there.

Please note: There’s a lot of overlap when it comes to various areas of need that a child has. If you are looking for Social Emotional goals, I have a list of those too. If you don’t find what you need here, you made find it there. Or, check the IEP Goal Bank.

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Note: Before adding a Behavior Plan or Behavior Goals to your IEP, please read:

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The Many Flaws of School FBAs and Behavior Plans

This behavior IEP goals and objectives bank has a lot of lists. So grab a cup of something and poke around for a while.

Behavior is a complex topic, and you cannot talk about behavior goals without also talking about FBAs, discipline, manifestation hearings, and so on.

As I say, “knowledge base I wish I didn’t have to have” but I do.

But let’s not put the cart before the horse.

Can you have Behavior Goals without an FBA?

The short answer is yes. However, doing an FBA first is the best practice. And, how do you know that you need behavior goals if you have not done any evaluations regarding behavior?

You would need the FBA to drive the Behavior Plan within the IEP.

A woman discussing behavior with a little girl in front of a door, with the intention of setting IEP goals.

That being said, if my child’s behaviors were minimal, and adequately addressed in the IEP without an FBA, I’m not sure that would be a battle I would fight. Every situation is different.

The main thing to remember is: All behavior tells you something. What is your child trying to say?

Can you have a Behavior Plan without an IEP?

Again, the short answer is yes. I have seen it done (though I did not question the validity of doing it this way as it was not my client). For some kids, their only area of need might be behavior.

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Therefore it kinda sorta makes sense that they only need a behavior plan and not a full-blown IEP.

However, I think this is a horrible practice. If a child has behaviors significant enough to warrant a behavior plan, then they should have an IEP though the law does not require it.

Because it is my opinion, and Ross Greene’s too, that most behaviors are caused by lagging skills.

Quote from Ross W. Greene

Having an IEP also offers legal and disciplinary protections that should be considered.

How to Write a Behavior Goal for an IEP

In behavior, there’s a whole lot of talk about “making good choices.” Just make sure that the child has the skill set before the expectation is set.

It’s very easy to lay out expectations of what you wish a child to do. Classroom behavior goals are never going to happen if the foundation isn’t there.

If a child lacks a skill, it is never going to happen. This goes back to your FBA. Make sure that as behaviors are listed, they are defined as either “will of the child” or “lack of skill set.”

There is a huge difference, but both can result in being expelled from school.

Two of my favorite experts for behavior are Ross Greene and Peter Gerhardt. Both address teaching skills, not just reward and punish.

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Behavior Goals for an IEP

I didn’t need to reinvent the wheel. There are lots of great sites to pull from. I have included some goals that I wasn’t that crazy about. If the IEP goal you need isn’t on this list, make sure you check out the IEP Goal Bank.

Some had wording like “will act mad the right way.” You know what’s wrong with that one, right? Who says what is the right way to be mad? Does the child even know this? And how to do it?

For numbers, use the figure that is in the child’s baselines and work up from there. I have removed wording such as “calm body” and “quiet hands.”

If a child needs to stim, script, flap, or rock while doing a task, what is the harm in that?

List of Behavior Goals for an IEP

This is just part of a giant list. I like that some of these behavior goals include work completion goals.

  1. By the expiration date of this IEP, _______ will manage conflicts, independent of teacher support in 4 of 5 observed occurrences over a 2-month period as measured by observations and performance assessments.
  2. By the expiration date of this IEP, given a self-monitoring checklist, _______ will demonstrate self-regulation during 90% of weekly sessions as measured by observations across 2 months.
  3. By the expiration of this IEP, given a writing assignment, _______ will initiate his work as evidenced by beginning to write letters on his paper within 1 minute of the assignment being presented in 80% of a minimum of 20 recorded opportunities over a period of 2 months, as measured by observation and performance assessments.
  4. Throughout the school environment while using a five-piece token board with a visual of his rules (follow directions and have a safe body) listed at the top, _______ will follow both of his rules (follow directions and have a safe body) to earn all five of his tokens for each half-hour period, in group and 1:1 academic sessions, in 80% of trials probed in 4/5 observations for at least a 2 month period before the expiration of this IEP, as measured by observations and performance assessments.
  5. _______ will request (using his/her communication method) and take a break when he needs one, and return back to a task after a break independently in 8 out 10 opportunities over a minimum of two months, as measured by observations and performance assessment by the expiration date of this IEP.

IEP Behavior Goals and Objectives Bank

Thank you to a reader for emailing me the list (below) that was shared with her at school.

Some of them, as written, are not really measurable.

Remember you can always insert the desired behavior into the IEP goal formula to make it concrete and measurable.

IEP goal worksheet for behavior goals.

Please note, since it was so popular, 19 Work Completion IEP Goals and Examples now has its own post.

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Adaptive Behavior IEP Goals

Here are some examples of IEP goals for adaptive behavior or behavior goals examples:

  1. Goal: Improve self-care skills.
    • Objective 1: The student will independently perform personal hygiene routines, such as brushing teeth and combing hair, with minimal verbal prompts.
    • Objective 2: The student will develop the ability to dress and undress independently, including fastening buttons, zippers, and shoelaces.
  2. Goal: Enhance social skills and peer interactions.
    • Objective 1: The student will initiate and maintain simple conversations with peers, using appropriate greetings and turn-taking, in at least two different social situations.
    • Objective 2: The student will demonstrate an understanding of personal space by maintaining an appropriate distance when interacting with others.
  3. Goal: Develop functional communication skills.
    • Objective 1: The student will use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) system effectively to make basic requests (e.g., asking for a drink, indicating discomfort) across different settings.
    • Objective 2: The student will expand their vocabulary and expressive language skills by learning and using new words and phrases in daily conversations.
  4. Goal: Improve independent living skills.
    • Objective 1: The student will demonstrate the ability to follow a daily routine independently, including organizing personal belongings, preparing a simple meal, and cleaning up afterward.
    • Objective 2: The student will learn and practice basic money skills, such as counting and making simple purchases, in real-life situations like a grocery store.
  5. Goal: Develop problem-solving and decision-making skills.
    • Objective 1: The student will identify problems in their environment and generate at least two appropriate solutions for each problem, with minimal prompts from a teacher or caregiver.
    • Objective 2: The student will use a decision-making process (e.g., gathering information, considering options, weighing pros and cons) to make choices in different contexts, such as selecting a preferred leisure activity or deciding on a meal option.

On-Task/ Work Completion Goals

NEW: Work Completion IEP Goals now has its own separate list.

  1. When given a task or direction ______ will begin the task within 1 minute and remain on task for a minimum of 10 minutes independently with no more than 2 prompts on 8 out of 10 independent tasks, as measured by staff data.
  2. Given a maximum of one verbal cue, _______will attend to a non-preferred, small-group activity and/or independent assignment, without protest, and remain on task with no task avoidance (bathroom, getting a jacket, tying shoes, sharpening a pencil, etc.) for 20 minutes, in 3 out of 4 trials, as measured by observations and staff documentation.
  3. _______ will demonstrate on task-behavior in the general education setting for 75% of intervals during a 10-minute period, with the use of an appropriate fidget and one adult reminder, in 4/5 trials, as measured by observation and data.
  4. ________ will attend to a task during large and small group instruction across settings for a 10-minute period with no more than 1 teacher prompt in 4 out of 5 trials as measured by teacher charted data.
  5. With movement breaks and the use of self-regulation strategies, _____ will demonstrate the ability to attend to a task for an average 75% of intervals in a 20-minute class period.
  6. With the use of taught self-regulation strategies and self-monitoring checklists, ______ will independently begin a task (including non-preferred tasks) within 2 minutes of direction for an average of 80% of opportunities, across environments.
  7. With the use of taught self-regulation strategies and self-monitoring checklists, once ______ has begun an independent task, he will then remain focused on the task for at least 10 (use baseline number) minutes, free from adult prompts, for an average of 80% of opportunities, across environments.
  8. When given an assigned task, ____ will independently complete an assignment/task, and ask for assistance, if needed, with 80% accuracy in 5 out of 5 consecutive trials, in a small group setting, as measured by teacher-charted observations.
  9. When given a non-preferred task paired with the use of self-regulation strategies and rewards systems, ______ will begin the task within 1 minute and complete the appropriately modified version of the task within a predesignated appropriate amount of time (with the use of a timer) on 8 out of 10 opportunities, as measured by staff data.

 Class Participation Behavior Goals

  1. _______ will demonstrate raising her hand to participate in whole class and/or small group instruction, 80% of the time in 5 out of 5 intervals, as measured by teacher observations.

Coping Skills IEP Goals

  1. In the classroom environment, ______ will utilize positive self-talk and coping strategies to handle stressful situations or work demands in which he/she manifests anxious or withdrawn behavior (i.e. putting head down, saying he/she can’t do something), demonstrating by engaging in the 30-minute activity or situation in a calm and positive manner with one prompt on 2/3 occasions.
  2. In counseling sessions, _______ will accurately identify feelings and appropriate coping strategies when presented with real or imagined situations with 80% accuracy on 4 out of 5 trials.
  3. When _____ becomes upset, frustrated, or angry, he will use a self-regulation/coping strategy (movement break, deep breathing, quiet space break, deep pressure/heavy work activity, etc.) to avoid engaging in unexpected behavior, with one reminder, on 4 out of 5 opportunities, as measured by observations and documentation.
  4. __________ will improve his self-regulation skills as demonstrated through utilizing a tool (e.g. inner coach, sensory support, calming break) to aid in regulating to an expected emotional state (e.g. green zone – which is when we feel calm, happy, content, and focused) with one adult reminder on 8 out of 10 instances in a small group setting, as measured over two week period
  5. ______ will improve insight on regulation as demonstrated by identifying the instances where he/she could have benefited from utilizing a tool to aid in regulation and determine what tool would have been beneficial for each instance with 80% accuracy.
  6. When presented with a problem (non-preferred task, frustrating situation, criticism/correction), ______ will accurately determine the size of the problem (big problem, little problem) and determine the appropriate emotional response (take a break, talk with a teacher, take a deep breath, replace frustration with good thoughts, etc.) and return to the task at hand in 4 out of 5 trials as measured by teacher charted data.
  7. When given a frustrating situation (i.e. undesired task, demand, and/or undesired peer behavior), with one prompt ________ will utilize coping strategies (i.e. take a break, deep breaths, etc.) and return to and remain on task for a minimum of 10 (use baseline number + improvement) minutes with an average of 95% over 8 consecutive school weeks, across all classroom environments.
  8. When presented with a situation known by ______ to be anxiety or frustration-producing for him (i.e. non-preferred task, an unexpected obstacle such as ______, tasks perceived as too difficult, unfamiliar adult, and non-preferred adult), he will independently demonstrate an appropriate emotional response through finding a solution to his problem or using a strategy to regulate back to an expected emotional state (take a break, talk with a teacher, etc.) and return to the task at hand within 2 minutes, for an average of 80% of instances both throughout all environments and within each environment.

Self-Control IEP Goals

  1. _______ will show self-control of his/her body and voice (good personal space, keeping hands/arms/legs near the body, and appropriate voice level) in relation to the expected levels of the classroom and peers around him for 80% of a 20-minute period.
  2. ________ will demonstrate self-control in the classroom by raising his/her hand and waiting to be called on by the teacher when he/she has a question in class, with 80% accuracy in 5 out of 5 trials, as measured by teacher observation and data collection

Self-Monitoring IEP Goals

  1. _______ will demonstrate the ability to recognize expected and unexpected behaviors as well as rate his own behavior as part of his self-monitoring system with 80% accuracy as compared to teacher ratings of behavior.
  2. ______ will demonstrate the ability to accurately recognize her level of anxiety through the use of a visual self-rating system (e.g. feelings thermometer) with 80% accuracy, as compared to teacher observations and data.

IEP Goals for addressing Aggression

  1. _________ will refrain from physical aggression (i.e. kicking, hitting, pushing, tripping) across all environments in school, for 4 consecutive weeks, with all adults and children as measured by event data.
  2. _________ will refrain from aggression (i.e. hitting, kicking, pushing) 100% of the day, across all environments, with all adults and children as measured by special education event data, over 8 consecutive weeks.

Anxiety IEP Goals

  1. In counseling sessions, _____ will accurately identify situations that can be anxiety-producing and appropriate coping strategies or relaxation techniques when presented with real or imagined situations with 80% accuracy on 4 out of 5 trials.
  2. ______ will demonstrate the ability to accurately recognize her level of anxiety through the use of a visual self-rating system (e.g. feelings thermometer) with 80% accuracy, as compared to teacher observations and data.

Negative Comments and Gestures-Goals

With the use of Cognitive Behavioral Intervention (strategy of learning to regulate thoughts and beliefs in counseling paired with daily reinforcement as tools are utilized), _____ will reduce instances of negative comments and gestures to an average of 1 instance per hour, across all classroom settings, as measured over 6 trial days. 

Non-Compliance/ Following Directions

New: Difficulty following instructions? Following Instructions IEP goals now has its own list.

  1. When given a frustrating situation (i.e. non-preferred task, not being able to choose a preferred activity such as computers, etc) _______ will engage in no more than 20 minutes of non-compliance over a week period as measured through time sampling data.
  2. Given a three-step functional direction from an adult, _____ will complete all three steps with a maximum of 1 additional prompt in 4 out of 5 trials as measured by teacher observation and data.
  3. Through the use of Self-Monitoring checklists, _______ will reduce instances of Passive Non-Compliance (becomes purposely and increasingly distracted through ignoring tasks, demands, or staff directives) to an average of 20% of intervals or less, both across all educational environments and within each educational environment, as measured across a one week period.
  4. During a 20 academic task, ____ will respond to staff directives in an expected manner within 1 minute and with one reminder on 4 out of 5 trials, as measured by teacher observation and data.

Social/Emotional Problem-Solving Goals 

When given scenarios of social conflicts, ______ will demonstrate problem-solving skills by identifying the problem and generating two solutions appropriate to the situation in 4/5 trials, as measured by data collection.

Printable List of Behavior Goals

Social Emotional IEP Goals

Become the IEP Behavior Advocate Your Child Needs–Read These!

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